ANGUO’S “THE MASTER’S FLESH IS STILL WARM”

If you are asked “who are you?”
how will you reply, and who
is the person asking the question?
If you answer, you are blind
if you say nothing you speak loudly.
The sage will tell you
that there is no you and if
you doubt him he will hold up
a mirror and ask what you see.
If you answer “I see myself”
he will laugh because no one
can see themselves unless
they see everyone, for you
are both the reader
and the writer
of these poor words.


A reflection on case 131 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)

DHARMA

In Tibet there are
more than 80 words
to describe states of consciousness,
several words to explain
the sound of prayer flags
rustling in a Himalayan breeze
that reaches up to the crest
of the peaks that lick
at the slowly gathering clouds,
all of these words never uttered.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe the soft brush
of your lips across my cheek,
your hair pressed into my chest.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe the faint bouquet
of soap and morning coffee
as she dries herself slowly
in the mirror that runs along the sinks.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe the sound of her laugh
half giggle as we watch the kitten
roll on her back, paws up
reaching for the mote of dust
dancing on the heat rising
from the fireplace, pressed down
by the lazily spinning ceiling fan.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe her eyes as they dart
after the Monarch that flits above
the deep purple Sedum that stands
in silent prayer to the sun.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe how she cringes
at the sight of the buck
lying alongside the road
eviscerated by the fender
of the car, long gone, his horn
buried in the shallow dirt.
There are no words in Tibet
to describe the ripples of her spine
as I run my finger down her back
while she curls, grasping
at the margins of sleep.
There are no words in Tibet
for all of these, no words
to fill the room, to blanket
the lumpy mattress on which I sit
staring at the blank screen
of the TV, reflecting the neon light
of the 24 hour diner that flashes
through the gauze curtains
of room 4218 of the Hyatt,
merely the echo of another plane
lifting out of the San Jose airport.

PRESENCE

He appeared rather suddenly,
and didn’t seem to stay very long.
Some claimed they knew he was coming,
most never saw him arrive,
although some said they saw him clearly,
that he visited frequently, that
they knew his presence unquestionably
and spoke to him at some length.
She knew there was much wishful thinking
and a dearth of reality, but she
had come to accept that they got
what they seemed so badly to need
at no cost to her or any others.
But her daughter, seeing all this,
could only laugh, for though she might
be young, she knew he didn’t appear,
he was always there, they just wouldn’t
close their eyes and see
what every child did.

MORROW’S WISH

Each night I stare up at the sky, scanning
for the one star that is there solely
to answer whatever entreaties I choose to make.
It is said that we each have a lucky star,
but perhaps, given the ever-expanding population
of the world, mine is just too dim to see
from the city in which I live, or perhaps,
I simply haven’t found it, and addressing
someone else’s star brings you nothing,
not even thanks from the lucky soul
who won the big lottery last week
all at my urging, I mean how could I know
it was their star I addressed with my request,
it isn’t like they wear name tags after all.
Still, I don’t give up trying, though
I often swear that Orion and Cassiopeia
spend a portion of every evening together
just laughing their celestial asses off at me.

FLYING TIME

She said, “the saddest
thing of all is time.
We spend so much of it
trying to insure we know
exactly what time it is,
that it gets away from us
and is gone long before
we get around to using it.”
He said, “but it’s important
to know what time it is,
in case something happens,
for how else can we tell others
what happened and when?”
She laughed, “then
exactly what time is it now,”
and as he looked closely
at his watch, she disappeared.

IN DREAMS

Mingling with the wind,
my dreams are carried off
into the night before I have
fully finished viewing them.
The heavy heat of summer
has seeps through the windows,
a blanket I cannot throw off
almost smothering, until
it, too, is soon washed
away by the rivulets of sweat
soaking into the sheets.
I reach out for my fleeting
dreams, try to pull them back.
But the wind laughs, whispers,
“I am beyond your control
and what I steal belongs to all
but he from whom I took it,
but I leave you other dreams
from other dreamers in its stead.”